Piranesi | Master of Fantasy

  • 16th June − 7th October 2012 | Lower Level (Scottish National Gallery)

Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) was one of the most inventive and influential printmakers of the eighteenth century. Chiefly working in Rome, he created etchings of archaeological and fantastic subjects that became an intoxicating source of inspiration for artists and architects across Europe.

The son of a stonemason, Piranesi was born near Mestre on the Venetian mainland. In his early years he studied architecture, engineering and stage design. He travelled to Rome in 1740 and immersed himself in the study of the remains of the ancient city. Within a year Piranesi started producing etched views of Rome, and in 1743 he created his first major publication, the Prima Parte di Architettura.

Following a brief return to Venice he settled in Rome, where he remained for the rest of his life. He secured his reputation with a succession of remarkable series of prints: the Vedute di Roma (1746-78), Grotteschi (1747-9) and Carceri (1749-50). Based to varying degrees on observation and the imagination, these works came to dominate the print market because of their unprecedented scale, complexity and heightened drama.

Master of Fantasy, a display of prints and drawings drawn from the Scottish National Collection, provides a fantastic overview of the career of this magnificent printmaker.